A Travellerspoint blog

Peru - Huanchaco & Trujillo (Our home for 6 weeks!)

22 °C

An overnight bus and taxi sent us to Huanchaco in Northern Peru, a small surfing and fishing town which is 15 minutes from Trujillo, Peru`s third largest city. Well known as a gringo trap, we fell straight into it, and after only planning a 3 night stop, we have ended up staying for 6 weeks!

During our first few days we sampled more ceviche, which is a dish made with raw fish, lime juice and chilli, delicious, but we always cross our fingers and hope it´s not going to make us sick!! Watched many spectacular sunsets, as the sun turns into a big orange fireball on the hazy horizon. Checked out Trujillo city centre, which is full of colourful buildings and a plaza, of couse! We also took a few surfing lessons, choosing the very good Muchik surf school from the bounty of surf schools available in town, although somehow we´re not really any better than when we started! It didn´t help that one lesson was cut short by Paul turning geen and bolting in to the toilet to struggle with the full body wetsuit..!

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There´s a great swell, but the beach is not quite up to the Australian standard we´re used to. Once you dodge the many rocks, sea urchins and jellyfish it does the job. We have been pretty shocked by the amount of litter strewn across it, and even locals strolling up, unzipping and using it as a toilet! But all this aside it is a gorgeous beach, we´re just a little bit spoilt back home! Plus it´s lined with traditional reed fishing boats, Caballitos de totora, used by the locals to get a fresh catch fish early in the mornings.

So once we got our act together, and decided we needed to do more with our time than visit the bakery for their lemon merangue pie, we signed up to do some voluneering with an organisation based in Hunchaco called Otra Cosa. Paul´s joined the office to help out with the marketing side of things, and I´m helping out at a wawa wasi, which means daycare centre in Quechan, one of the traditional indian languages of Peru. There are 8 childen aged betwen 1-4yrs cared for by one madre (mother) from 8am to 5pm in a room in her house. Pretty big job, so they are always thankful for volunteers. The wawa wasi is in a shanty town and the children are selected as being those most in need of help, and the meals they get in the wawa wasi may be the only meals they have for the day. It´s certainly been an eye opener and has tested my spanish, but the children are just gorgeous and my madre is a pleasure to work with.

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We have also moved into a house in town, which was such a find, we have a massive room and bathroom and access to kitchen etc it´s so nice to have our own space after 6 months in hostels. We also have some great housemates, lots of Aussies, one is a yoga teacher across the road (Lucy´s happy) and there´s a dog. So this is our new family for the next few weeks as we settle into life in Peru.

If anyone is thinking of doing volunteering in Peru, get in touch with Otra Cosa: www.otracosa.org

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Peru - Huaraz

19 °C

Even though we´d spent alot of time at high altitue in Bolivia and Peru, the week or so back at sea level in Lima had quickly made us forget how it feels to struggle to walk up a flight of stairs. So when we arrived in Huaraz, which sits at 3,000m altitude nestled underneath the Cordillera Blanca mountain range, we took it easy for the first few days. We spent some time dinking the amazing coffee at Cafe Andino, and visited the natural volcanic thermal saunas in nearby Chancos, which were set in caves and heated to various temperatures. We takled one at 47 degrees celcius and they went to 54...HOT!

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Gluttons for punishment we climbed again, this time in the second highest mountain range in the world! Cordillera Blanca...with 22 peaks over 6,000m in altitude. It also has the mountain that Paramount Pictures use for their logo. A day trip to Laguna 69 was magic, as we walked from 4,000m to 4,600m to a bright blue lake surrounded by 6,000m+ snow capped peaks with their glaciers crackling all around. For me it was second only to the incredible sight of Mount Fitzroy in Patagonia. A motion sickness tablet that morning made Lucy super drowsy and she struggled with the altitude, so sat half of it out with numb hands and headache ridden! I didn´t do that much better, near the top I was walking as slow as a ninety year old, but recorded my heart rate at 184!

The next day was a rush of mountain biking, from a high point in Cordillera Negro (a mountain range directly opposite Cordillera Blanca)...I threw the mountain bike on top of a mini bus, jammed with locals and got dropped at 4,260m. You can ride back down the road or take one of the many single trails back. They are basically trails that link local properties and all end up in Huaraz. 3 hours of smooth downhill fun, some say the best mountain biking in the world. I have to agree!

It was great to see some more local dress in this area, which is common in the highlands, and the women were sporting some pretty amazing giant hats! We styed at Hostel Ezama which had a super handy owner who was keen to help with anything, and even let us check in at 6am when we arrived fresh off an overnight bus, so stay there if you head to Huaraz!

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Peru - Lima & Barranco

22 °C

Lima, the capital of Peru and the country's biggest city. A lot of travellers seem to pass right through due to bad reports, but we loved it. They city centre was full of bright yellow buildings, beautiful big plazas, good shopping and friendly people.

We stayed in the centre for a few nights in Hostel 1900, a very cool converted mansion. We explored the sights including climbing the bell tower at Santa Domingo Convent for good city views, visited the catacombes in San Francisco Convent which was a sightly claustrophobic experience, and saw a modern photography exhibition. The Inquisition Museum was also interesting, with info on how the Spanish tortured the locals when they arrived (good but all in Spanish!). We lost Paul a few times and sampled some Ceviche...a local dish made with raw fish, fresh lime, chilli and onions, yum!

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We then had a few quiet days in Barranco, a really nice suburb of Lima just next to the popular suburb of Miraflores. It felt more like a little beachy town than part of Peru´s capital city. Nice restaurants and cake shops on every corner and our hostel was on a street overlooking the water. Deb treated herself for her last 2 nights in South America staying at a guesthouse called 'Second Home', had an entire floor to herself with huge ocean views. Our hostel called The Point had a great mix of people and we joined in on a game of 'flip cup' followed by a good night out.

The winter weather in this part of the world is a little strange. The temperature sits in the low 20s but it´s constantly misty or hazy and the sun rarely shines! So if feels like its about to rain at any minute, although it never does (apparently they only get 3mm per year)...No tans for us yet. Next up, a night bus north to Huaraz...hopefully a little smoother than the last!

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Peru - Pucusana

21 °C

We were edging closer to the coast and about to see the ocean for the first time in a few months and we decided to step away from the tourist trail and check out the small fishing village of Pucusana. We arrived at night and after realising budget accommodation options were dives, we treated ourselves and stayed in a hotel. The town had a nice enough setting, a cool blowhole, a cliff shaped like Jesus (according to the locals) and fresh fish served right by the water... but the murky beach, strange smells, ordinary food and odd people meant we were off to Lima the next afternoon...

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Peru - Huacachina & Ica

22 °C

Huacachina, a fading 1970s resort town set around a natural lagoon in the desert amongst towering sand dunes....the accommodation optins are pretty ordinary but we were lucky to find a brand new, cheap and clean hotel called Hostal Sol De Ica. The town right near Ica is described as a gringo playgroung by the Lonely Planet and it was just that. Our 48hrs here (you don't need any longer) consisted of a pisco tour, which started out sampling some of the pisco distilled nearby, and ended in a roudy discotheque where we met a group of locals and danced the night away. Followed the next day by sand boarding on the giant dunes surrounding the town, and if we hadn't been feeling so seedy we may have opted for a dune buggy tour too! Instead we checked out sunset from the top of the dunes overlooking the vast desert, wow.

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Peru - Nazca Lines

23 °C

The three of us caught an overnight bus to the Nazca lines...possibly one of the scariest points of the trip so far. We were on a narrow road weaving along the ocean when our bus stopped at 2am...turns out there had been a massive landslide 3 vehicles in front of us which had blocked the narrow road and would´ve crushed anything in it´s way... A few hours later we were on our way again, thanks to a rescue crew and some gutsy truck drivers who cleared the rubble. Arriving in Nazca alive, minus a few windows, smashed by the rocks that had been crumbling down around us! All part of the fun, This is Travel!

We sorted out a 35 minute scenic flight at the local airport. In a small 4 seat plane with 2 pilots we flew over the mysterious symbols and lines. The plane cut out a figure of 8 around each shape, and despite the masses of turbulence and a girl in front making use of the sick bag, we kept our breakfast down. Lucy, being not quite so brave after the nights events, opted for the more conservative option of the 'viewing platform'.

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Thought to have been made by the Nazca culture over 1,000 years ago, the mystery is how did the symbols and lines get there, as they can only be seen from above. They consist of shallow markings made by clearing away the darker rocks on the surface to reveal the lighter sand below. Some are long lines stretching out for kms, others are some interesting looking images of monkeys, birds and other animals.

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Peru - Arequipa & The Colca Canyon

23 °C

Arequipa is a grogeous city with many cast iron windows and gates, and buildings made from while sparkly volcanic rock from the surrounding snow capped volcanoes! There are a few sights in town that have managed to survive the many earthquakes that have rocked the city. The Monasterio Santa Catalina built in the 15th century by the Spanish, is massive and took over a whole block in the city centre. The architecture and brightly coloured walls nearly tricked us into thinking we were in Spain. The central plaza was a great spot for a menu of the day for lunch or dinner overlooking the square, competing with prices for a supermarket dinner!

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We took on the nearby Colca Canyon (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!),which is a spectacularly deep valley in dusty cactus surrounds! We hiked down into the canyon and back up the 1,100m incline over 2 days, with about 12hrs of hiking we stayed overnight in the small village of Cosnirhua. Despite Deb fainting from the sun and our last hour of climbing being in darkness, we made it to the town of Cabanaconde in one peice! Our refuge (Hostel Dadoo) was a welcome sight, the first guesthouse we stumbled across which happened to be brand new and the best find in town. After some pizza and pisco sours at Pachamama (mother earth), we reminisced on the breathtaking condor lookout. This is where we saw the GIANT condor birds soar past for an hour or so early in the morning. (yes we are now bird watchers!)

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Peru - The Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

17 °C

It was a great 4 days and luckily the only rain we got was on the first day, just enough for Lucy to christen her giant poncho and for Paul to use his beloved eVent jacket (too cool for Goretex!). After that we had gorgeous views especially when we reached the highest point on our second day, Dead Womans Pass at an altitude of 4,200m. Luckily there were no dead women to be seen despite the massive climb and icy wind...! The name refers to the outline of the pass looks like a lady lying down.

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The 38km trek over 4 days doesn't seem like a lot but doing it at altitude with the inclines and declines certainly took its toll, so we were thankful to our tour company, Peru Treks, who made the trip very comfortable. We had a crew of 20 plus porters to look after our group of 14 people.. tents set up for us everynight, woken up each morning with hot tea, and even for lunch stops we had amazing hot food served literally on mountain sides!! It blew us away... These guys work so hard.

We saw some ruins along the trail and some spectacular scenery but the best was definately saved until last, Machu Picchu on the final day...even with a 3:00am start! After a brisk uphill scramble for an hour or so we made it to the sun gate to see the sun rising over Machu Picchu ruins. It really was magnificent...and the surrounding scenery. It´s perched on top of a mountain, surrounded by even taller lush mountains on every side. It´s hard to imagine how the Incan people managed to build it there 600 years ago. After a tour through the massive site later that morning, we spent the afternoon exploring the site and the nearby inca bridge.

If you ever get the chance, get to Machu Picchu!

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We stayed in Aguas Callientes that night after the trail and struggled to pry ourselves away from the hot shower in time for dinner with our group. A quaint and car'less little tourist town with a train track running right through the middle. We passed through Ollantaytambo on our way back to Cusco and checked out some impressive ruins along with a nice lunch.

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Peru - Cusco

19 °C

Our first two days in Cusco were consumed getting ourselves organised for the Inca Trail.. Which involved dodging the many ' painting' and 'massage' offers on every corner and spending a whole afternoon trying every bank in town to withdraw US dollars! We were also very spoilt and stayed at the absolutely gorgeous Tierra Viva Hotel, just off the main plaza (an early bday present from Deb to Paul). It took a while for us to get used to the fact we had towels and toilet paper supplied...and that we didn't need to wear thongs in the shower! But we settled into the crisp white sheets and buffet breakfast without a problem.

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Celebrations for Semana Santa (religious week) filled the main plaza as the town congregated to watch processions carrying giant floats which must've weighed an absolute tonne. We had to take a few swift side steps on a couple of occasions to avoid getting trampled, when the poor men carrying them lurched from one side of the street to the other! Escaping unscathed around the corner we found more festivities in the form of hundreds of beer tents providing the local cuisine 'cuy' (guinepig) whole, glazed with teeth gripping a garnish we couldn't bring ourselves to sample the delicacy!

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The centre of town has gorgeous cobble stone streets, multiple European style plazas lined with eateries, and a lookout which was worth the climb to get up close to the giant statue of christ, illuminated over the town at night.

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Peru - Puno & Lake Titicaca

20 °C

We crossed into Peru and our first stop was the dusty and shabby town of Puno...some nice buildings and from the lookout, a great view over the lake...it also offers trips out to the famous and extremely touristy floating reed islands on Lake Titicaca. After we recovered from the pushy and loud local salesmen flooding us in the bus terminal (a big change from the quiet Bolivians we had grown to love) we soon found ourselves on a boat trip out to the islands. It was well worth the trip, as we jumped over the squishy islands which felt like you may plunge through into the lake at any minute, met traditional inhabitants of the islands and got to enjoy some local (and slightly painful!) high pitch singing as we were farewelled on our floating reed boat!

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After 5 months away we were both looking forward to some new company, so we welcomed Paul´s sister Debbie and friend Shelley with open arms as they joined us for the next few weeks of travel!

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Bolivia - Copacabana, Lake Titicaca & Isla Del Sol

18 °C

We made it to the highest navigable lake in the world, Lake Titicaca. We took a bus from La Paz and arrived in the evening just in time for sunset - wow the sunsets here seem to last for hours...The lake is massive and it felt like we´re on the edge of a very calm ocean as opposed to a lake.

Copacabana had a good feel to it, a mix of tourists in one area and locals in another next to the little bustling market. Nice chilled foreshore restaurants, and great views from the nearby cerro (hill) lookout.

After a couple of nights we took the boat out to Isla del Sol (Island of the sun), and after a few hours cruising we arrived at the northern town of Challapampa. A small village with many farms and animals roaming around....pigs, donkeys, sheep and llamas! We found a gorgeous place to stay right on the beach, literally a few steps from the water all for the mighty sum of $3.50 each.

We explored ruins further north including a fascinating labyrinth, ate with some locals and polished off a bottle of red on the beach as the sun went down... The next day we set off on a 3 hour walk to the south of the island to a small town called Yumani, passing through small towns, multiple makeshift soccer pitches and even more donkeys....cue ¨EEOOOORRRR¨ we´d never actually heard donkeys make this sound until we arrived here..they don´t stop! Here we found another room with a great view over the lake and another stunner sunset, before heading back to the mainland the following day...feeling like we´ve done just a little bit of walking at altitude in preparation for the Inca Trail...!

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Bolivia - Coroico

27 °C

Coroico a very scenic spot to stop for a few days. With a population of 2,500 people it´s set overlooking a lush valley, surrounded by green mountains as well as Coca and Coffee plantations. It´s sub-tropical climate was a great relief from the harsh cold and dry climate of La Paz.

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We stayed for a few days in a resort with a restaurant, pool, garden, our own room with a balcony and stunning view ($10 each per night!). Filled in our days taking in the view, walking into the town centre for a ´menu del dia´ (typical Bolivian offering, hearty soup, main and dessert full of health!) and watching the local soccer teams on what must be the best placed soccer pitch in the world!!

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Bolivia - La Paz

17 °C

After a cold yet comfortable overnight bus, we arrived in La Paz, the biggest city in Bolivia, set in a valley at 3,800m, spectacular.

Bustling city, lots of local dress and one of our favourite things about Bolivia, great street food! We had a great time in La Paz, exploring the narrow winding streets up to Killi Killi lookout (not an easy climb at this altitude!), the plazas, old buildings and the quirky witches market.

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We used it as a base for our Ride and River trip as well as a few days in Coroico, at the end of ´Death Road´. The Worlds Most Dangerous Road is the road where buses, cars and trucks battle to avoid the sheer drops that plung 400m without barriers.

We rode down it, so much fun. It goes for about 66kms from 4,700m to 1,200m. The first part is asphalt and makes up part of the new safer death road, so you could fly - Paul had a GPS on his phone and clocked 70km/h, passing buses and trucks (all safe though!). The dirt section is a little scarier, but amazing - slightly more control, concentration and LESS speed needed.

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We haven´t quoted any companies or hostels on this blog but if you do Death Road, make sure you do your research. There are some agencies that offer poor quality bikes. We went with Barracuda, very good.

At the end, we decided to stay in Coroico for a few days...set at 1,700m it has a perfect climate...somewhere warmer before going back up to La Paz.

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Bolivia - Sorata to Rurrenabaque "Ride and River"

25 °C

Brilliance...best experience probably possible (if you are a mountain biker)!

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A five day trip starting at bleak icy mountain tops at 4,700 metres, down to sea level at the edge of the Amazon. The trip started off with 2 days downhill on a mountain bike covering about 120kms...it was pretty tough riding for a non-biker over loose gravel, sharp turns (on cliff edges...without barriers) so Lucy quickly learned how to control a mountain bike! And it was absolute heaven for Paul especially as the route provided us with breath-taking views across valleys as we descended down into civilisation again. We stayed in some small towns along the way, where we were cooked some tasty local meals.

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These adrenaline packed days were then followed by 3 days down river on a dug out canoe boat, including jungle treks, swimming in rivers and waterfalls! Fantastic food from our cook who served us while we were putting downriver towards Rurrenabaque in the Amazon jungle.

Rurrenabaque is a small town on the bank of the Beni river. There are a few gringo hang out spots where we grabbed some food and drinks with people from the trip as we bumped into them around the little town! We also attempted the hot and sweaty climb up to the lookout with great views back across the lush scene below!

To avoid the hellish 20-35hr bus ride back to La Paz, (depeding on how often the bus breaks down or gets bogged) we decided on the flight, leaving from humid tropical weather and returning to the high altitude cold climate of La Paz in just 40 minutes as mountains literally soared past the window in our small plane!

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Bolivia - Sucre

20 °C

The capital of Bolivia is Sucre, white buildings, big plazas, vibrant atmosphere and sat spectacularly in a valley. We loved Sucre and it became our home for 2 weeks, even joining our hostel owner for a tasty home cooked lunch with her extended family.

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With good company in our hostel we kicked back, took on some more Spanish lessons and played numerous games of 500 over numerous bottles of wine... our daily routine involved heading to the local market for a massive fruit salad with 12 fruits, yoghurt, condensed milk, coconut, oats - all for about $1.

Sucre seems to be the city in which all northbound backpackers from Chile and Argentina converge as we ran into more people than at home. Good times and a great place to relax.

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Paul thought we were in Jurassic Park on our trip to the Dinosaur Park just out of town. So he followed it up with a day trip to Humaca hiking for 7 hours in the Bolivian mountains to see footprints up close, incredible.

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